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Home » » AFL Grand Final: Hawthorn stamped themselves as one of the AFL's greatest ever sides - three premierships

AFL Grand Final: Hawthorn stamped themselves as one of the AFL's greatest ever sides - three premierships

It was never in doubt
It's not entirely true to say Hawthorn were guaranteed this premiership win, but once the game was underway the difference between the Hawks and West Coast was stark. The victors were comfortable in their own game, while the Eagles struggled not only on the ball but in choosing what to do and what not to do around the field.
Perhaps nothing shows the contrast more than how Hawthorn scored their early goals to what the visitors were doing when they made it forward. Three of the Hawks' first-half goals were from kick-ins, which not only explains just how easily they were moving the ball around but also proves just how costly West Coast's mistakes were. As we mentioned in the heroes and goats of the grand final, errors such as Luke Shuey's decision not to pass and a couple of missed set shots were particularly important in the context of the game while it was still on the line.

By the end of the afternoon 15 of Hawthorn's 16 goals were assisted, as Hawthorn picked the Eagles' defence apart kick by kick and handball by handball. That was absolutely key to defeating West Coast, but it came in different forms. Early in the first quarter there was a focus on long, high kicks that would trouble the likes of Jeremy McGovern and Will Schofield, and the wind certainly helped the Hawks get some distance on those bombs. Slowly but surely Hawthorn went the other way to find players on leads and it wasn't long before the Eagles' confidence and ability to play as a team had been broken.

West Coast couldn't match the might
One of the highlights of the Eagles' season was their many contributors, but at the MCG they were totally shut down by the Hawks. Even their major ball-winners – Andrew Gaff, Shuey and Matt Priddis – were largely ineffective, as they had precious little run around them. Josh Hill wasn't able to receive the ball in the areas where he could do the most damage, Chris Masten was generally ineffective, and numerous others through the midfield played some of their worst games. Elliot Yeo managed only five disposals, the lowest of his career, while as a result of Hawthorn's domination, West Coast captain Shannon Hurn wasn't able to contribute out of the back half. 
The question is: where the Eagles will go from here? They're young enough and they'll no doubt use their home-ground advantage to finish in the top eight again, but coach Adam Simpson has to use the experience of losing to such an efficient outfit as a motivator both on and off the field. With a tough 2016 fixture confirmed by losing the grand final, West Coast will play more games that matter and therefore more games where they will need to lift their work rate and pressure off the ball. Simpson was handed a harsh lesson by his former mentor on Saturday, but one that should be quite valuable.

Schoenmakers winning himself a new reputation
Bruce McAveney commented during the game that Ryan Schoenmakers was probably the last man picked for Hawthorn's grand final 22. If you believe that to be the case, then you can see why the Hawks managed to romp to victory. Previously a whipping boy for his club's fans, Schoenmakers backed himself in to win a regular spot despite the arrival of James Frawley. Instead of heading over to Adelaide to play with the Crows on a long-term deal, 'Schoey' held off his teammates to play the last three finals of the year and he saved his best for last. He put himself in the contest to get the ball and was rewarded with a third-quarter goal that would break the game open. His work at the MCG will probably help the off-contract premiership player at the negotiation table when the trade period opens. But will he want to leave the club? We doubt it.
The veteran Hawks will never slow down
Luke Hodge's second-quarter goal was not something that should be possible. Off one step, if that, the skipper split the middle with an outstanding snap from the boundary that surely had neutrals all over the country jumping up and down. Meanwhile Sam Mitchell showed why we wouldn't have been surprised if he did win the Brownlow Medal – or the Norm Smith – as he was consistently brilliant in the middle and unbelievably controlled. Relatively unheralded this season compared to some of his past exploits, Shaun Burgoyne will be 33 at the start of the next campaign but you wouldn't expect him to lose any of his marvellous skills.
As we watch Hawthorn's regular success we realise the number of players who still have years to offer. Hodge, Mitchell and Burgoyne, plus Brian Lake and Josh Gibson, might only have one or two seasons left, but as they retire look who's still left. Cyril Rioli, Jordan Lewis and Jarryd Roughead will carry on their legacy with aplomb – but there's still another premiership to aim for before the Hawks need to worry about that.

Stray thoughts
- Much was made of the weather and how it reached a record maximum temperature for a grand final, but did anyone care about it by the time the game was underway? By then it's just a number.
- Three-peat? Where do we live again? We'll never understand the obsession with calling Hawthorn's triumph a 'three-peat' over a 'hat-trick'.
- Nic Naitanui got his hands to the ball often enough in the ruck, but when his midfielders are being held down so easily it's no surprise his impact on the game was low. It all looked so good from the first bounce but it was a bridge too far for the 25-year-old big man.
- We can't remember the last time Matt Priddis was shut out of a game so easily. It just doesn't happen, and he'll be filthy for it.

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